Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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THE ENVIRONMENT:

Now you can know when air is bad

E-mails from government warn of pollution in the area, present and future

Many Las Vegans simply rely on a quick check of the brown ring of smog across the mountains rimming the Las Vegas Valley for an indication of our air quality.

But the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clark County Air Quality and Environmental Management Department have a new way: an e-mail flash sent to subscribers by both agencies with air quality information, forecasts and advisories. And it’s now available in Southern Nevada.

The so-called EnviroFlash sends messages based on the agencies’ Air Quality Index forecasts to let subscribers know whether air quality is good, or whether it’s necessary for them to stay indoors or otherwise reduce exposure to air pollution. The service will be important to children, the elderly and people with cardiac or respiratory problems such as asthma, according to the agencies.

More than 200 cities in 34 states now have access to EnviroFlash through partnerships between the EPA and local governments. For more information, visit www.accessclarkcounty.com. To sign up, go to www.enviroflash.info.

Subscribers can elect to get e-mails every day, or only when air quality is bad.

•••

Friday’s news conference was supposed to be a big one — Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s outlining of the 229 objections the state has filed to the application to store the nation’s highly radioactive nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

But the only reporters who showed up at the Grant Sawyer state office buildings were the ones from the valley’s two daily newspapers — the Sun and the Review-Journal.

TV crews were rumored to be covering a shipment of O.J. Simpson’s memorabilia from Nevada to California.

Of the 229 objections, called contentions, 180 cover health and safety issues. Other contentions are over worker safety, transportation of radioactive material across the country and the legality of aboveground pads where the Energy Department would “age” the waste before putting it in the mountain.

The Energy Department filed its license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in June. The Energy Department will have 50 days to challenge any contentions it believes the NRC should not allow. The state will then have 10 days to respond to those challenges.

Clark County filed 15 contentions of its own Monday, as part of a petition to intervene in the licensing of Yucca Mountain. That process could last more than a decade.

Bob Loux, outgoing director of Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Agency, called the filing of the contentions the culmination of a more than 30-year career fighting the Yucca Mountain Project and a good time for him personally, even though he will soon be replaced after giving himself and his staff unauthorized pay raises.

•••

NV Energy, Nevada’s largest utility company, announced Thursday that it had purchased a 50 percent stake in a proposed wind farm near Jackpot, in northeastern Nevada along the Idaho line.

The company will partner with Denver-based Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a developer of wind projects in the United States and Canada.

The so-called China Mountain project would generate 200 megawatts, enough electricity for 15,000 average Las Vegas homes, and would be on a combination of federal, state and private lands.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Elko office held meetings to get public comment on the project in June.

The project also needs rights of way from private landowners and the approval of the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

Nevada currently has no wind farms, although Duke Energy announced Thursday it plans to build a $600 million, 300-megawatt wind farm near Searchlight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hometown 58 miles south of Las Vegas.

Nevada’s wind resources are considered mediocre at best, and most of the best locations are along hard-to-reach mountain ridges.

In many areas of the state wind turbines and other renewable energy projects conflict with military use of air space. The utility said the China Mountain project, which would be nearly 500 miles from Las Vegas, would not.

According to NV Energy, the project could be expanded to 425 megawatts. The utility also said an environmental review of the project, including a two-year review of impacts on sage grouse, is likely to be completed in 2010.

“We have been working over the last two years to advance wind energy development in Nevada to a point where we feel that real projects will begin to get built and contribute to our portfolio,” said Tom Fair, NV Energy’s renewable-energy executive.

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